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exclusive Why Klopp may alter his tactics to ensure Leicester ace Jamie Vardy doesn't punish depleted side


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Diogo Jota has been a sensation since his Anfield move

Diogo Jota has been a sensation since his Anfield move

Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Diogo Jota has been a sensation since his Anfield move

Leicester striker Jamie Vardy will fancy his chances of tearing Liverpool's decimated defence apart at Anfield tonight, as football tries to recover from two weeks of total madness.

We all questioned whether the international break should go ahead while the world is trying to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, but FIFA and UEFA gave the green light to matches being played all over the globe, and, inevitably, it was a mess.

Never mind the reality that we are all struggling to watch Ireland play matches right now, as playing international football while this evil virus is surging once again was a ridiculous and dangerous decision.

Now the cost is clear for all to see, with Liverpool affected more than most.

With Mohamed Salah stuck in self-isolation in Egypt after he attended his brother's wedding and caught Covid-19, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is facing a huge challenge to keep his side's season afloat.

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Roberto Firmino will be up front against Leicester

Roberto Firmino will be up front against Leicester

Getty Images

Roberto Firmino will be up front against Leicester

Joe Gomez's injury while training with England last week will rule him out for most of this season, so Klopp has to look at his best options from an already depleted squad.

Having nine points on the board from their first three Champions League games could play a role in his decision-making, as Liverpool are well on course to qualify for the knockout stages.

After beating Atalanta 5-0 away from home in their last European game, they face the same opposition at Anfield on Wednesday night and should get another win.

It means Klopp can focus his attention on this Leicester game, with the call over who plays alongside Joel Matip at the heart of the defence not clear.

Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams have done well when they have been called upon, but Leicester are a serious threat in the final third - and this is why I have concerns for Klopp's side heading into this game.

Former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is returning to Anfield with more than a few aces in his pack - and he will fancy his chances of getting a big win on the board.

Vardy's pace and the invention of their midfielders allow them to counter-attack quickly, and with Liverpool's full-backs pushing forward, that could expose Klopp's side.

It looks like Andy Robertson will be fit after overcoming the hamstring problem he picked up playing for Scotland last week, and James Milner may be an option to fill in for the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold in the other full-back role.

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Jamie Vardy helped to destroy Man City

Jamie Vardy helped to destroy Man City

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jamie Vardy helped to destroy Man City

Klopp may be tempted to ask those two to sit back a little more than normal, even if it means the attacking side of Liverpool's game is diluted.

As we saw when Leicester beat Manchester City 5-2 at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season, they relish the chance to hit attack-minded teams on the break. It's a warning of what could happen this evening.

Van Dijk and Gomez were at the heart of the Liverpool defence when they lost 7-2 at Aston Villa last month, so this team have recent memories of being undone against sides that can strike them hard in quick breakaways.

Klopp needs to find a way to protect his defence, in the knowledge that his forward line will outscore the opposition more often than not.

Salah's exile in Egypt is a hammer blow because he was in great form prior to the international break alongside Sadio Mane, with Diogo Jota's introduction following his arrival from Wolves adding to the potency in the forward line.

Roberto Firmino will have a big role to play, as he will take the central striking role and while parts of his side are still functioning close to full power, Klopp knows he is now treading a tightrope like never before.

The team he will put out to take on Leicester will be strong, but a glance at the bench will confirm he is running out of options if any more players get struck down with injuries or contract Covid-19.

Fabinho is on the way back from his injury and so is Thiago Alcantara, but it may be a case of wrapping a few key players in cotton wool and not using them in certain games as they prepare to play 12 games in the next 41 days.

It means they will be playing every three-and-a-half days for a sustained period and it means more injuries are inevitable.

This is a very strong Liverpool squad with cover in every position, but they are already using those back-up players in several places and if Klopp was to lose Matip, Salah or Mane for an extended period now, he might run out of options.

So many players are being ruled out of matches and this is partly because of the workload they are facing, as well as the lack of pre-season. It means the body has not had time to recover and prepare again.

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Liverpool can’t afford to lose Joel Matip

Liverpool can’t afford to lose Joel Matip

Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Liverpool can’t afford to lose Joel Matip

Every Premier League manager is facing similar problems right now and it feels like the team that manages their resources well and gets lucky with injuries will come out on top.

Amid these strange times, Klopp and his players have a chance to break one of the club's all-time great records tonight.

Klopp's side are currently unbeaten in their last 63 Premier League games at Anfield and that's the same mark achieved by Bob Paisley's great Liverpool team between February 1978 and January 1981.

The current team will add to their legacy if they can take the record for themselves tonight and yet for so many reasons, this may be one of the toughest games they have faced in that long and glorious run.

Sunday World


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